JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – In a conference call with reporters on Thursday, Rep. Phil Roe (R-Johnson City) said an article published by a Nashville newspaper this week destroyed his reputation.
The congressman spent much of Thursday’s conference call defending his stock market trades, which have taken the spotlight after an article from The Tennessean reported that Roe made hundreds of financial transactions as the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States.
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Roe stressed that he keeps his financial decisions at “arm’s length” through the services of a financial advisor at Merrill Lynch and that he did not personally make any of those financial decisions.
Roe asserted that he “did not know I had stock in there” during the call and that he sits down with his advisor of 30 years — who he didn’t name — several times a year concerning his finances.
One reporter on the call noted that Roe bought stock in the video conferencing company Zoom the day after he participated in a conference about opioids with the U.S. Surgeon General at East Tennessee State University. When the reporter asked what Roe talked about during the conference, the congressman said he couldn’t remember and reiterated that he doesn’t have a hand in his investments.
“I have a financial advisor that does all of those transactions for the very reason you (the reporter) are implying right there – that’s why I do it,” Roe said in response.
“I’m not influenced by anything but what I thought was best for my constituents.”
Roe clashed with Tennessean reporter Joel Ebert during the call, who wrote the article that brought attention to the congressman’s investments over the past several months.
Ebert asked about Roe’s appearance in a Fox Business interview on March 12. The congressman referenced Gilead Sciences, a biopharmaceutical company currently working on a COVID-19 vaccine.
According to records of Roe’s investments, the congressman had invested stock in the company at the time of the interview. When Ebert asked Roe about it, Roe responded by saying, “I don’t know who you are, but you don’t know me at all, and when you wrote a piece that helped destroy my reputation,” he said in response to the question, adding, “I do not make any decisions whatsoever. It’s a very shoddy piece, and you helped destroy a man.”
Roe continued to explain that in that interview, he was referencing Remdesivir, a medication that Gilead is currently researching as a treatment option for COVID-19.
“The drug we were talking about and it had been talked about publicly by the president and everybody on the planet up until that time. I mean I wasn’t giving any information that the whole public didn’t know,” Roe said.
Roe insisted that the decision that his financial advisor made for him was no different than the decisions made for other clients. He said he strives to be “as open as I know how to be.”